Human society is the most complex object in the known universe. People are its most complex component parts. The answer to the question of how they are to be best categorised would bring great rewards If we had such a system of categorisation, then we could ask and how these categories vary between nations, map onto important actions and interests or how they change over time. This section reports what is known in this area, both about how populations can be segmented and how this changes over time and with wealth. We present a powerful new system of categorisation, and explore the implications of this. We extend it to encompass national differences, offering an objective typology of nations
This section is intended to be read in conjunction with discussions on the changing nature of politics, discussed elsewhere.
There are two sections in this document. In the first, we think about the way in which the members of societies are changing. We begin by noting some of the drivers of change. We then describe a sophisticated transnational typologies which can be used to classify human differences. We draw out some important messages f about the changes which are in train.
In the second section, we consider what this means at the national level. Many policy issues - such as approaches to competition and community - are strongly differentiated across national lines. Some may move into one set of responses, others into distinct patterns. In order to think about this, we have placed national differences and similarities onto an objective basis. The resulting 'family of nations' is presented as a relatedness tree.
In three generations, the educational attainment, world view and self-confidence of the average citizen of the currently-industrialised nations has changed enormously. A hundred years ago, many were still tied to the land. Those outside of capital cities received news slowly, diluted through rural media and hearsay. Women were typically disenfranchised, and adult male suffrage was far from universal. An elite ruled and expected to continue to rule. This cadre of educated people were mobile - quarter of a million tourists visited Switzerland in 1870, for example - but their world view was also a filtered one. Mass travel was limited to what national networks could deliver.
The changes created by a hundred years of education, political inclusion, wealth, public health, travel and access to information have been sweeping. The changes in human capital that will occur in the next twenty years, in the industrial world and beyond, have been discussed elsewhere. We also discuss the changing nature of political representation elsewhere. At issue here is how we can best understand our changing populations, and what these changes imply.
A theme which has run through much of this Chapter is the means by which people, institutions and others come to cope increasing complexity. Such increases are inherent in economic and social development. Elite groups can find their way through this complexity with some ease. Less capable groups may have considerable difficulties, as has been discussed elsewhere. Prior to mass education, the key divide in the industrial societies revolved around four factors: social class at birth, educational attainment, gender and age. People fell into recognisable 'types' which were predicated upon these objective factors. An uneducated working class woman aged fifty could be expected to have - or anyway, express - an understandably stereotyped outlook. However, as education, wealth and information spread through the population, so these crude features of exclusion lost their explanatory power.
What took its place were axes concerned with attitudes to social organisation. The period of mass industrialisation offered a template against which the average life could be set. Whilst few individuals fitted exactly into this framework it nonetheless created a comfortable sensation of a predictable life, with way marks such as marriage and retirement to mark progress through it. Life resembled an assembly line, whereby predictable things - education, a job, marriage, children - occurred in a predictable sequence and people who did not live on the conveyor belt appropriate to their educational status were seen to be exceptional. The institutions of life were clearly defined: leaders led, churches pronounced and rebels rebelled in neatly defined ways. An assortment of templates, amounting almost to stereotypes, were understood to exist and were propagated in the popular media.
Studies on attitudes in a wide variety of populations show that the principle component that differentiates them is how they view this issue of navigation. Some find change acceptable only when accompanied by templates of this sort. Others prefer to create their own templates, drawing on values which they define for themselves. Their approach may be analytical or it may be a hedonistic pursuit of 'whatever works, whatever feels good'. When the sources of these attitudes are further unbundled, two subsidiary axes emerge which are shown in Figure 1. The vertical axis is concerned with the source of organising principles, whilst the horizontal axis is focused on tacit social relations: on how society is to be given order. These two axes captured something around two thirds of the variation in industrial world populations until quite recently, when more complex events began to develop. We explore these in a moment.
Figure 1: the fundamental typology of industrial nations, 1950-80.
People have been spread unevenly amongst these quadrants. Typically, the lower two quadrants held three quarters of the western populations, and the period after World War II saw a sharp drain from the 'traditionalist' group across to 'consumers'. The 'managerial' group made up around 15-20% of the population, whilst the 'innovators' constituted a small but disproportionately influential - and very heterogeneous - group of 5-10%.
There are three points to be made from this
It is worth noting that a political interest - in the environment, for example - can be advanced from a 'managerial' or an 'innovator' stance, concealing quite different motives and perspectives. A 'traditionalist' view of the environment is different yet again, as is a 'consumer' view. Each is called "environmentalism" but the four generate completely different dynamics, goals and approaches to policy.
The pressures fall not just on the formally excluded. Middle managers and their families are, however, under increasing stress as well. Middle incomes have fallen in real terms in the US since the late 1970s. Over half of middle managers who were questioned in the UK during 1996 believe that their health has been affected by increased pressures at work. Over four fifths of managers were working more than their contracted hours. Two thirds of the sample think that their increased work load has led to an imbalance between their domestic and working lives. More than half are on their second or third marriage. Very few claim to have any friends outside of the workplace. Most strikingly, those most affected were the youngest managers, under ten percent of whom reported anything other than dread of the working day. Despite rhetoric about 'empowerment', only 7% of junior managers felt any control over their areas of nominal responsibility
This typology still retains some validity. However, it has been much eroded by the phenomenon of 'unboxing'. To understand this, consider the fifty year old women whom we mentioned above. She was, by and large, 'boxed' in her views of life. Her equivalent, interviewed in around 1970, would have expressed more complex views - and her attitudes would, as a result, have required a more complex space to capture them - but when would still have been boxed in to a fixed area within this. Marketers could identify what products and services she would value and these could be targeted upon her and differentiated from other products aimed at other, populous 'boxes'
Professionals have seldom been 'boxed'. Typically, a professional will shift effortlessly from a state of mind characteristic of 'concerned environmentalist' to 'rabid consumer' in the space of a sentence, from 'tough boss' to 'caring parent', from 'aggressive competitor' through 'supportive authority figure' to 'party animal' in course of hours or minutes. Such people are 'unboxed'.
Unboxing makes an individual hard to pin down, because tough choices phrased in one set of values melt when considered from another perspective. They are hard to target for marketing and harder still as targets of assertive political rhetoric. They do not 'bundle' into one or the other extreme of party politics, something discussed elsewhere.
People are not, however, completely unboxed unless completely unhinged. Most have characteristic 'orbits' in their value space, where they have a centre of weight which is strongly related to the axes shown in Figure 1, and excursions from this which are characteristic of their range. As more move up the vertical axis of Figure 1, so their excursions either side of it tend to become more radical. It is commonplace to hear an 'innovator' say that people "must" do this or that, or to otherwise take on the mantle of the normative group.
These considerations have been applied to a very large data set. ( World Values Survey, National Data Archive) The results of this assessment are shown in Figure 1, where the proportion of the population made up by these various groups are plotted against income per capita of the country concerned. For clarity, the figure has been both smoothed and extrapolated.
Five attitude clusters have been distinguished. "Systems rationalists" have descended from the innovator-managerial group. The consumerist-managerial overlap has given rise to the "economic rationalists" and the traditionalist-to-consumerist group create, in the wealth world at least, the three groups coloured brown, orange and ochre. In the poorer nations and under absolutist regimes and ideologies, however, these take on rather different aspect. We discuss this in a moment.
Figure 2: Rising income per capita is characterised by a shifting portfolio of national attitudes.
Traditionalists dominate the population of the poor nations. They are largely rural, as a 'traditional' approach to urban life has seldom evolved. The can be of any age and are frequently strongly religious. In the wealthy countries, the traditional are predominantly old and live in cities. Although their circumstances are very different in the wealthy world, their state of mind is not. The elderly are disproportionately 'traditionalist' in their outlook, whatever their income. As we have seen elsewhere, demographic trends mean that their numbers will grow in the next few decades
Traditionalists are both normative and certain that they are right to be so. The 'uprooted' group, by contrast, are those who seek tradition but are all too aware that their former certainties have been shredded. They feel themselves at the mercy of others and of forces which they do not understand. Many middle managers who suffer the syndrome described above are 'uprooted'. However, they are a predominant component of society in the primary-secondary transition, as farming ceases to be the dominant way of life, manufacture and urban services take over and as the cities (and populations) grow rapidly.
The next group to dominate numbers as income increases are the normative. These are, in essence, the uncertain who have found some sources of certainty. Fundamentalism in its various forms may be interpreted as a clinging to a source of authority (and solidarity with a group) in the face of a bewildering world. Marxism, nationalism, the trades union movement, religious certainties and the stigmatisation of minority groups all suit the needs of this mind set. In the wealthy world, these pains of adolescence often precede a transition to the group described as economic rationalists. In middle income countries, however, the paths by which to do this may not be evident. There may be passive blocks - such as access to education - and active ones, such as entrenched elites. One flavour of normative certainty is the revolutionary imperative.
The next group to expand into the social portfolio are the "economic rationalists". These are a consumerist group who have found paths to personal betterment. They are a heterogeneous group. People within the group may be charitable and may support public issues such as the protection of the natural world. At least in abstract, they may agree with measures to reduce social exclusion. Their economic base is insufficiently stable for them to abandon self-interest completely or, indeed, even marginally. Their goals and interests are defined for them by the interaction of consumerist messages, their immediate circle and their economic imperatives. The workings of a complex public sector is of little interest unless things go wrong, and the state is viewed as the custodians of the 'awkward bits' that must be managed if their life is to have an even tenor. This group is both consumerist and unboxed. It has highly efficient message filters, by is highly responsive to messages which pass through those filters.
Finally, a group called the "systems rationalists" emerge with increasing income, with complex societies and with a highly educated population. This group splits between those with a strongly environmental-minimalist element to them (sometimes called 'post-modernists') and others who have more material interests. Their unifying characteristic is their urge to understand the machinery by which society works and commerce functions, and to work on the machinery so as to induce change, create opportunities or make things work better. Their value structure is strongly internalised, such that they follow their goals through challenges which would deter economic rationalists. They are future-oriented, disinclined to care what others feel that they ought to be doing and strongly inclined to take their values from within themselves. One individual may operate in many domains - art, science, commerce, policy - but will tend to bring a coherent set of values to bear on all of them. Elsewhere, when discussing career choices, we talked about multimodal and unimodal individuals. Systems rationalists are unimodal, economic rationalists multi-model.
The wealthy world is not replacing its population, and so modest economic growth leads to sharp rises in per capita income. The mean figure for 2020 will tend to create societies which are divided roughly into three populations of equal size. Education and exposure to information will enhance the growth of systems rationalists. Age will increase the traditionalist population. Political systems will have to cope with three groups which find it quite hard to achieve a common basis for discussion. A "systems rationalist" account of the new biology will, for example, sound like a re-statement of the problem to traditionalists.
Systems rationalists have, by and large, seized the high ground policy. Concepts such as evidence-based policy, or the use of knowledge management techniques to create sound frameworks are systems rationalist concepts. They may lead to sensible things being done. In the absence of explanation and public understanding, however, such things can only be undertaken either on the basis of trust extended from the rest of the population, or in spite of their anxiety or opposition. The complexity of the world and the challenging nature of the issues means that 'common sense' will no longer serve the two thirds of the population normally unconcerned with analysis. As discussed elsewhere, the political system will have to adapt itself both to a changing electorate but to operating in an environment in which most of the electorate are simultaneously anxious, alienated from the sources of policy and to ill-informed to be competent to discuss the topics that concern them. A renewed form of democracy is going to have to engage with these issues.
Figure 3 shows the results of a statistical analysis aimed to define levels or relatedness between nations. It is based on a mixture of objective measures and attitudinal factors. The attitudinal measures are those which contribute heavily to the analysis which is shown in Figure 2. The analysis began with around 400 variable of both types, and shed all but the few dozen that roved significant discriminants. The Figure is, therefore, based on objective terms, and the scale measures the distance between the countries in the space which this creates. Austria is 50 or so units from Germany, and Finland is 90 units different from both.
Figure 3: Objective measures of relatedness amongst the industrial and some industrialising nations.
The analysis shows some interesting groups. The group comprising Denmark-Holland-Norway-Sweden lies close to the German-Finland-Austria group. They score highly on indicators of a systems rational population. A large gap separates Catholic southern Europe, which is less systems rational than traditionalist, whilst spending much on social goods. The predominantly 'economic rationalist' Britain, Canada, the USA and Ireland would probably have been joined by Australia and New Zealand, were the data to have been adequate. Japan stands out on its own, being like no other nation. The size of the leap to the middle income nations is significant, reflecting differences in complexity as well as wealth. The pattern is similar to that discovered when analysing cities, as shown elsewhere.
This casts an interesting light on the European enterprise, with a potential schism down the Rhine and a more-or-less live split across the channel. Projections are not easy with this model as there are dozens of variables at play. They have not been attempted. However, Catholic Europe, Japan may be more strongly inclined to close their doors on a challenging world than, for example, the economic rationalist group. The economic rationalist group is split into two sub units, as already discussed. The group dominated by Germany is more traditionalist than the coastal group. This, in its turn, has made a much better job of explaining systems rational perspectives than has Germany. (Finland, in this regard, fits closer to the 'coastal' nations.) Germany and Austria have a strong underlying dynamics of populist denial, plus and age spectrum with will increase traditionalism.
The pattern of relationships in the industrial world is, therefore, vaguely visible through the mists of two decades. An Atlantic consensus could see common perspectives between the US and the coast fringe, although the 'market' economies would have a lot of explaining to do to their respective electorates. Inland Europe may take a more 'social', populist-rejectionist approach to hard choices, and find mutual solidarity in this agenda. Japan may be ever-more isolated in such a world. The newly industrialised will, de facto, slipstream the USA unless there is a market accident there.
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